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Renting A Wife: Dhadicha Pratha In India

Despite India's progress towards gender empowerment, there are numerous distressing instances that highlight the continued mistreatment of women in certain regions of the country, even long after gaining independence. The persistence of irrational customs underscores the sexual harassment and objectification women endure. An appalling example of such a tradition exists in an Indian village known as the "Dhadicha Pratha."

While concepts like renting houses, cars, and rooms are familiar to us, few are aware of a disturbing practice in certain Indian villages where women are essentially rented out as wives. This revelation might be hard to believe, but upon reading this article, one will come to understand the depths of degradation possible within a patriarchal society.

Bride markets, prevalent in countries like Bulgaria, Burma, Pakistan, and North Korea, have shockingly found their way into India. The Shivpuri district in Madhya Pradesh has garnered attention for the practice of renting out girls to men, with criteria such as virginity and physical appearance playing a role in the selection process.

What is the Dhadicha Pratha?

The reprehensible practice of wife rental has persisted for decades in the Shivpuri village of Madhya Pradesh, known as the Dadhicha custom. Annually, a market is established where families traditionally offer their daughters or wives for rent. Men participate in this market, selecting women to be their companions.

It's astonishing to discover that parents or guardians willingly lease their girls to men, even involving married husbands renting out their wives to others. Wives are handed over to prosperous businessmen who lack a spouse or partner. These transactions are formalized on stamped papers with nominal amounts like ten, fifty, or a hundred rupees. This practice results in the finalization of thousands of deals every year.

The escalating problem of female infanticide has significantly skewed India's sex ratio, particularly affecting regions like Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh. Men in these areas face difficulties in finding brides, leading them to purchase or rent women from economically disadvantaged regions like Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Assam, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, and Bihar.

This strategy is employed to continue their family lineage. Financial considerations and the desire to avoid hefty dowries are the primary reasons behind families agreeing to rent or sell their daughters. The transactions are typically facilitated by brokers who retain the major portion of the sum for themselves, leaving only a smaller share for the family.

Determining the Pricing of Girls:

In the context of Dhadicha, the focus is primarily on virgin girls aged between 8 and 15 years, and they are given preference over married women. The valuation of a bride is based on the duration for which the man intends to have her as his wife, whether by the hour, day, week, month, or year. When the stipulated period concludes, the arrangement can either be renewed with the same individual or a new contract can be established with another man, leading the bride to be rented out to a different person.

Usually, the financial arrangement is set at around Rs. 15,000 to 25,000 per bride. The age of the bride significantly influences the pricing, with younger brides commanding higher amounts proposed by their families. At times, the price can surge substantially, even reaching up to 2 lakhs if the bride is considered beautiful, physically appealing, and a virgin. Non-virgin girls are valued at Rs. 10,000 to 15,000, taking into account factors such as their age, skin tone, and the number of prior contractual marriages they have been involved in.

What Qualifies A Girl To Become A Bride?

The deeply distressing aspect of the Dadicha situation is that girls being offered for rent are as young as 6 years old, with no maximum age limit. Even before reaching puberty, these underage girls face sexual exploitation. It is truly disturbing to learn that parents frequently administer a particular drug to these girls, aimed at enhancing their breast and muscle development. This is done to make them appear aesthetically appealing and mature like women, in order to command a higher price.

They are married off for a certain amount of time once they have been hired. These brides are sometimes referred to as "Paro" or "Molki," which means "priced." Every day, these young girls are raped not only by their husbands, but also by other males in the household. To satisfy their sexual desires, they can sleep with any guy in the household. In certain families, even the father-in-law is permitted to have sexual relations with the girl.

The rationale for this is that they paid the same price for the girl. The girl's standing is lowered to that of a sex toy utilised for enjoyment by males and as an income-generating machine for the parents. As a result, the parents in this community prefer producing more girls, which equals more money for the family.

When her contract expires, she is either renewed by the same guy or returned to her family, where she is priced again and hired to new clients. The cycle goes on. These girls are subjected to a great deal of maltreatment, both physical and emotional, and there is no one with whom they can express their anguish. Many people come into touch with lethal infections such as HIV, AIDS, and Hepatitis B.

Stories Of Pain From Disgust:

There is a long list of women who have been subjected to this type of torture. Many people remain silent, while some have spoken up:

"I was too naive to realise what was going on until I realised I was married off to a man four times my age!" recalls Reshma, who was rented by her parents when she was eight years old. She was offered a salary of Rs. 60,000 per year. Her parents stipulated that the spouse might have sexual intercourse with her only once she reached puberty (when she began menstruation). However, she was raped not only by her husband but also by her brother-in-law on the first night of her marriage.

This went on for a year. She was afterwards returned to her family to be rented out to another guy. Fortunately, years after being rented to nine different clients, she was able to contact a non-governmental organisation and was brought to understand that whatever happened to her was not her fault. She was later placed in a child welfare home.

"He suddenly grabbed me and attacked me with a knife!" says Mahira, who was bought as a bride by a guy in Haryana for Rs. 80,000/- when she was fourteen years old.

"I wanted to flee on the first night of my wedding." "I cried for help, but no one came!" claims Saiba, who was rented to a widower by her brother. Every night, she was tormented into sleeping with many guys.

"He was an elderly gentleman with a beard. How could I possibly like him? I would not have even tied him a rakhi. He used to bash me with his shoes!" Sarah recalls being duped by her parents and married off to a fifty-year-old man when she was fourteen.

"Never in my worst nightmare did I imagine my life would be like this!" exclaims Kammo, who was kidnapped from West Bengal and finally sold to a guy for marriage.

"I would never let this happen to my daughter!" says Shabana, whose parents sold her for a pittance of Rs.15,000/- to many men from the same family.

A guy from Indore sold his wife for Rs. 30,000/- in 2017. When the couple went to a wedding, they struck a pact. The woman was raped several times by different individuals. She managed to flee, and a complaint was filed against the original spouse, who was eventually imprisoned.

So, Have Any Actions Been Taken Against This Practise?

This threat has been around for decades but has only now come to light. There has been some study done on the subject. As a result, media attention is likewise minimal. In addition, no one steps forward to submit a police report. The police are also uninterested in looking into such problems.

A few of non-governmental organisations have taken notice and are working hard to bring the problem to the forefront. They are striving to make people aware that buying and selling women is illegal. People in the village, on the other hand, frequently contend that it is a part of their custom and a significant source of money for them.

In India, there are laws against bride trafficking. Trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour is punishable under the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, the Bonded Labour Abolition Act, the Child Labour Prohibition Act, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, and the Indian Penal Code. However, research has demonstrated that there are many gaps in the law's treatment of human trafficking and slavery. This makes understanding and recognising it much more challenging.

All types of trafficking, forced begging, and bonded labour are prohibited under the Indian Constitution. However, the current situation is far worse than anyone could have predicted. Under the pretext of mindless customs and rituals, bride trafficking is brazenly taking place throughout the country.

It is inexcusable that parents have no sense of sympathy or pity towards their daughters. As a result, strict laws appear to be the best alternative. It is past time for the state to take notice of this and enact stronger legislation, as well as make people aware of how illegal it is in nature.

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